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Baby massages may put fragile skin at risk

Baby massages may put fragile skin at risk

Babies should not be massaged with oils as they could cause damage to the skin, research claims.

Baby massage is growing in popularity, with parents finding that gently massaging their child helps to soothe and promote a bond.

However, experts now claims that even natural oils for a gentle massage can damage the protective barrier in babies' fragile skin.

Researchers at the University of Manchester recruited 115 infants in the pilot study, which was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The babies were divided into three groups, and were given massages with olive oil, sunflower oil or no oil at all over a 28-day trial period. The babies in the oil groups were treated with a few drops on their skin twice a day and the lipid lamellae structure in the skin of each baby was investigated.

Accordingly, researchers found that in both oil groups the development of the skin barrier function, which prevents water loss and blocks allergens and infections, was delayed compared to the no oil group.

Lead author Alison Cooke said that if the skin barrier function is a wall with bricks made of cells, then the lipid lamellae is the mortar that holds it together.

“If it isn’t developed enough then cracks appear which let water out and foreign bodies through.

“Oil prevents this mortar from developing as quickly and this could be linked to the development of conditions such as eczema,” she explained.

The skin of the babies who were given the oils tended to be better hydrated, however, the researchers said this was not enough of a benefit to outweigh possible harm.

Official guidelines published by health organisation National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state parents should ideally not use skin products on their babies, although they could use un-perfumed soap.

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